Release Management

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Last updated 03 May 14:20

TL;DR

In the world of business and IT, software systems, resources, and development processes expand in distribution and complexity. How does Release Management help with controlling your deployments?

What Is Release Management

Release management is the process of going through the necessary steps to deploy a software build through different stages and environments; in preparation for its release. Quite often, software products are cycles of development, testing, and releases on platforms that evolve in size and complexity. These cycles cause the need for specialized managing environments where changes occur rapidly. Release management requires dedicated resources to supervise the flow of development, testing, deployment, and support.

Delivering enterprise software is complex and comes with expectations of high-quality product releases. Underperforming and underwhelming releases will lead to frustrations for the development team and low satisfaction to the end customer.

Release Management
Source: Smartsheet

Why You Might Want Release Management

Release management is responsible for the planning, scheduling, testing, and deploying the controlled build of a software release. This process ensures the delivery of new and enhanced services while still being able to protect the robustness of existing services.

With correct release management, you can achieve:

  • Increases the success rate of releases while reducing releases with unexpected outcomes.
  • Reduces unpredictable incidents caused by a release.
  • Ability to manage all releases by creating a single documented process.
  • Ability to record all releases by maintaining a single repository throughout the cycle.
  • Compliance issues are escalated to management.
  • Coordination between teams is improved to ensure services are delivered smoothly on schedule.
  • Productivity is improved by establishing standard release tools and processes.
  • Providing ample time for impact analysis by Change-Advisory Board (CAB).
    • Documenting and establishing auditable release controls is ensured.
  • Communication of releases to the development team, client representatives, clients, and other organizations.

  • Procedures are streamlined to achieve a balance between complexity and required controls of the release.

  • Lessons learned from the release management process you can apply to other areas.

Problems Release Management Solves

How to Implement Release Management

  1. Plan the release
    The planning stage requires a lot of time for structuring the release from start to finish. A well-thought release plan will help teams stay on track and meet expected standards, aims, and requirements.

  2. Build the release
    This stage involves the actual development (designing and building) of the product according to requirements defined during the release plan. After dealing with any issues that surfaced, the build must be subjected to real-world scenario testing. As the development team builds the product, it is tested for user acceptance by using a testing environment. Testing helps the team find bugs or issues that can occur in the real world. As the testing team identifies errors they send the build back for development. The workflow becomes cyclic after the build moves the 'development' stage to the 'testing' stage and vice versa until the release is approved.

  3. User acceptance testing
    User Acceptance testing involves the gathering of feedback from end-users by allowing them to use an early version (alpha/beta/trial) of the product. Trials are shared either online or with a large group of employees of a company. Sharing is a vital step for the release management due to the large quantity of data gathered and fixes needed to prepare the product for its official launch.

  4. Prepare the release
    This stage involves the final changes done to the product after considering everything learned from the User Acceptance Testing phase. Release preparation also includes a final quality report by the Quality Assurance (QA) team. During this time, the QA team will conduct their checks to see if the build meets the minimum standards of acceptability and business requirements defined in the release plan. Afterward, the functional team will validate findings and work on finalizing the release for deployment. Before deploying the build into a live environment, the product manager should approve the changes.

  5. Deploy the release
    Deployment is the final stage where the product release to a live production environment happens. Apart from pushing out a build into production, this stage requires the need to educate the end-users and your company. You can help it with the messaging, articles, documentation, or demonstrations. Users should be notified and updated on how to operate the new features of the release productively and efficiently. Finally, the development team should assess the performance of the deployment and discuss how to identify and document and issues to be addressed in the next iteration.

Common Pitfalls of Release Management

  • Some strategies work better than others:
    To have a better outcome, pitfalls of a product release must be examined and a more manageable release should be considered.

  • Coordinating the release:
    When designing the product, give a thought to its introduction, target user group, the support offered, and frequency of updates.

  • Conflict of user groups:
    While one group prefers new features and updates the other may not. A strategy is needed to handle both groups and proceed with releases when needed.

  • Downtime for testing:
    The product release cycle waits on bug fixes.

  • Lack of branch and version control:
    A versioning system with multiple branching support helps in managing the features of your product. Use one as main, and another to introduce changes.

Resources for Release Management